Is the Government speaking with one voice?
Minister of Finance and the Public Service Dr Nigel Clarke uses abacuses to make a point during the opening of the 2023/24 Budget Debate in the House of Representatives on Tuesday (March 7). (Photo: JIS)

Dear Editor,

Is there any Jamaican who doubts the brilliance of former Rhodes Scholar and Minister of Finance Dr Nigel Clarke? I certainly don't.

I last saw Dr Clarke in school more than 35 years ago and my recollections and impression of him were brilliant, focused, bespectacled, loaded with textbooks in his left hand, head slightly bowed he seemed so purposeful when walking; a man on a mission. His achievements and accolades have reinforced my impression.

In his opening budget presentation this year, Dr Clarke appeared confident and triumphant as he declared that the economy recovered from the pandemic and spoke about reduced unemployment, economic growth, and highlighted many positive macroeconomic variables.

I was quite impressed when he outlined — if memory is right — that Jamaica was the only country in the region which had made these strides, despite the adversity in the global economy. Kudos to the Government!

But, given that Local Government Minister Desmond McKenzie previously outlined in Parliament that global uncertainty was one of the reasons for the postponement of local government election, I could not help but wonder: What was the finance minister's true position on this postponement, or at least this stated reason of adversity in the global economy, given the local economy was doing so well?

Many Jamaicans may recall that during the novel coronavirus pandemic there was a partial economic shutdown, contraction in the economy, compounded by billions in unplanned spending by the Government to combat COVID-19, which was one of the worst periods of global adversity and uncertainty. But an early general election was called. This must be contrasted with the fact that the economy is performing well with billions more in revenues collected than projected, but economic uncertainty was declared as a reason for postponement of an overdue election. Seems paradoxical.

A Government always wishes to maintain power and will call elections early or postpone them when this creates a strategic advantage. I was, therefore, not surprised when it was reported that the Opposition and the Government are in a statistical dead heat in political ratings based on the well respected Don Anderson polls. Robert Morgan, the minister responsible for information, not surprisingly, referenced uncertainty in the global economy for the Government losing ground to the Opposition.

Many factors like crime, governance style, economic performance, people's standard of living, and political scandals accumulate to determine a Government's rating. Its ratings can, therefore, fall even in a vibrant economy. But how well is the economy performing, and are some Government ministers contradicting each other?

Daive R Facey

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